Saturday, March 30, 2013

Caught in the Rain

Two weeks ago Kristi came home late afternoon on a Saturday.  She had been in a meeting.  Before coming home she sent a text, asking me about visiting the “donut lady.”  Mamu Annie and her teenage daughter sell beignet (small donuts) across the street in the small market.  Their business does quite well.  Mamu Annie, however, has suffered greatly recently.  Her eldest son died of meningitis.  Her niece, named after her, subsequently died at the tender age of six months.  We heard Mamu Annie bawling down below when she heard the news of the second death.  It was unnerving and heart wrenching.  The donut shop had been closed now for several days.

Kristi and I determined we would go see Mamu Annie and comfort her.  Kristi went below to ask the fellow market workers where Mamu Annie lived, and whether or not anyone could show us the way.  “At this hour?”  They replied.  “With rain coming soon?”  They further pressed.  “Yes,” Kristi replied. adamantly.  “We must go today.”  Mamu Luta volunteered to take us.  Ten minutes later we were walking along the foot-trafficked roads and paths of Kananga.  Thunder pulsated in the heavens.  Would it rain?  We were told the trip to Mamu Annie’s home would take an hour and a half.  It was far, but probably half that distance.  Mamu Luta faithfully delivered us to Mamu Annie’s home.  We met her father, her brother and sister-in-law who lost the baby, and her mother.  We sat with Mamu Annie for a while.  The thunder and clouds hinted at their hidden intentions.  We entered their home to pray for them and give a small cash contribution.  We went outside again, and told Mamu Annie we must leave because of the rain.  The overhead conditions beckoned an onslaught of showers. 

A child of the family led us up to Mamu Luta’s home.  It had just begun raining upon our arrival.  Mamu Luta invited us into her home to evade the torrents.  She had given us a papaya to take home.  We sat in her home as the sheets of rain fell.  The trees swayed violently outside her door.  It was a tropical storm of Gilligan's Island proportions.  A friend or neighbor caught in the rain came into her home for refuge too.  We all sat as Mamu Annie scurried around doing some house chores.  The violence of the storm contrasted with the peace and gentleness of Mamu Luta.  She stuck several buckets outside to catch rain water.  Sitting in a Congolese home one gets a greater feel for everyday life of the people.  We noticed the guinea pigs scurrying around, a common site in many homes.  These are a good protein source.  I was impressed with the cement floor, and though there were some holes in the iron sheeting roof, it seems that not much rain was entering.  Fifteen minutes later the rain died down a bit.  Mamu Luta and her neighbor suggested we make a break for it.  She loaned us her umbrella to compliment our own.  After travelling up the path 100 yards, the rain began falling in torrents again.  The neighbor found refuge in a church, while Mamu Luta beckoned us back.  To her home we returned to wait out the renewed waves of water pellets. 

Fifteen minutes later we decided it was time to try again.  The path had become like a small stream.  Mud was everywhere and we had to walk where the ground was more solid.  Only a few people were out, common during the rain.  We trekked on and on, greeting the few passersby.  Three quarters of the way home we ducked into a church as the rain renewed its strength.  We sat with old women coming home from the market, along with several young people who offered us chairs.  Two young girls continued selling cassava and corn flour in our safe shelter.  Life continued on, all of us sitting together waiting out the rain.   

Twenty minutes later we were on the road again.  Everywhere people had laid out buckets to catch the precious water.  It was another world, walking in the rain, seeing again how nature affects everyday life in Congo.  Finally we reached home.  We asked ourselves if going to see Mamu Annie was a mistake.  After all, we knew it was going to rain.  After less than two seconds, we said to ourselves, “No.  It wasn’t a mistake.  We needed to see her.  This was our only chance.  We simply got caught in the rain.”              

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Worship in the village

This week we were invited by our friend Emmanuel to visit his church in the village of Nkonko. He rode his bike into town early to meet us and show us the way. After push-starting the Land Cruiser, we loaded his bike into the back and drove the 10km outside of town to Nkonko. They have a small mud-brick and thatch-roof building. From the outside, it looks like it will be dark and cramped inside.

Nkonko church - outside

However, thanks to some holes in the thatch, the sun came in and it was bright and pleasant inside. One of the walls was not complete, which let the breeze come through and made it feel open airy. The light was much better than we often find in churches, which made it a much better environment for getting some pictures. Here are a few of the pictures that summarize the day:

Nkonko church - warming drumwarming the drum to make the sound more resonant

Nkonko church - Bitshilolo

Nkonko church - drum set

Bitshilolo – spunky little girl!                                    Their drum set. Creative and effective!

Nkonko church - Congregation
The congregation. The front of the church is open, which keeps the church light and cool.

Nkonko church - boy on drum   Nkonko church - choir 2
       trying out the big drum                        the band – a home-made drum set and guitar!

Nkonko church - drummingThe music team. Sweat was dripping from Moise’ face (right) as he played the
drum with energy and passion. Then he also got to preach the sermon!

We were treated to a delicious lunch after the service, along with the 2 visiting choirs. Of course there was a request to help with the new building that they are collecting funds for. But we were encouraged and impressed with what they have done with the little they have. Truly, it felt like the Holy Spirit is at work in this little village church!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Word Play! defines etymology as “a chronological account of the birth and development of a particular word or element of a word, often delineating its spread from one language to another and its evolving changes in form and meaning.”  Kristi and I have had fun with etymology, or “Word Play” over our last three years in Congo, learning the origin of different Tshiluba words which have an origin from different languages.  Learning Tshiluba has led us down some fun foxholes, discovering the root of some Tshiluba words that have been evolved over time from French, English, Portuguese and Kikongo (another Congolese language). 

As a test, I will list several Tshiluba words on the left, and their English derivative on the right.  Put your hand over the word list on the right and see if you can guess the English derivates of these Tshiluba words! 


  1. Dileta                                                                                                          Letter
  2. Mbeketshi                                                                                                   Bucket
  3. Nomba                                                                                                         Number
  4. Kabadi                                                                                                         Cupboard
  5. Ngalasa                                                                                                        Glass
  6. Mupanu                                                                                                       Pants
  7. Mbalanda                                                                                                     Veranda (or balcony)
  8. Machinyi                                                                                                      Automobile


How did you do?  Interesting, isn’t it? 

Another interesting Tshiluba word derived from English is “Kandalu.”  Years ago missionaries gave small dolls to their Congolese friends.  In Tshiluba adding “ka” in front of a word places it in a diminutive form, making the sense of the word less significant or smaller in size.  Thus, the missionaries gave what they referred to as a “ka – doll” to Congolese friends, who heard and repeated it as “Kandalu.”  A new word formed! 

The most amusing story we have heard relates to the Tshiluba word “Muzabi,” which means a robe or dress.  As the story goes, a Belgium priest asked a Congolese house worker to grab his “Mes Habit” (“My vestments,” in French).  “Mes Habit” thus became “Muzabi,” a well-worn Tshiluba word, still used today.   

A somewhat amusing but more disturbing example is the word “Mbula Matadi,” the Tshiluba word for government.  This Tshiluba words derives from the Kikongo word “Bula Mutari.”  Translated from Kikongo, it literally means “the smasher of rocks,” and was the nickname given to Henry Morton Stanley, the British-born American journalist/explorer, because of his penchant for using dynamite to build a road through the rocky mountain ranges of Lower Congo.  The Kikongo ‘Bula Mutari’ would become the name Congolese gave to their Belgian administrators – perhaps an indication of how they felt about their harsh colonial overlords.  Later it would become synonymous with government in other Congolese languages including Tshiluba (Nzongola-Ntalaja, 2002).

Well, we hope you have enjoyed a bit of word play with us.  Learning a new language is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together; it is fun to see the pieces all coming together and to see how languages play off one another, meld together, and create new words and meanings.